Friday, June 9, 2017

Science & Technology: Remote Surveying of Dangerous Volcanic Locations

An Autonomous Boat to Investigate Acidic Crater Lakes (EOS)

(Video 5:50 Minutes)

In 1986, Lake Nyos in Cameroon exploded, jetting water more than 100 meters into the air as roughly 1.2 cubic kilometers of carbon dioxide suddenly belched from the waters. This enormous wave of gas smothered the surrounding countryside, killing more than 1700 people.

The deadly eruption focused attention on the dangers posed by active volcanic crater lakes and the importance of monitoring such lakes for changes in volume and other factors. About 35 such lakes dot the Earth, but monitoring active volcanic lakes can be problematic, especially when they undergo frequent eruptions of steam and other gases. These eruptions can make them too dangerous for human inspection by inflatable boat or raft.

However, the recent burgeoning interest in autonomous aerial drones presents researchers with an opportunity. So we asked ourselves, Could a small, inexpensive, and easily transportable autonomous boat, equipped with sonar, do the job?

Citation: McFarlane, D. A., J. Lundberg, G. van Rentergem, and C. J. Ramírez (2017), An autonomous boat to investigate acidic crater lakes, Eos, 98, Published on 05 June 2017.

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(Thanks to GRC Member Marcelo Lippmann, Staff Scientist (retired) at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory for the submission.)